The town of Kelso entered written history with the creation of Kelso Abbey in 1128.
At that time, just across the River Tweed was the Royal Burgh of Roxburgh and its castle. It was one of the most important towns in Scotland, the residence of kings and for more than a hundred years at the centre of government. However, during the wars of the later Middle Ages it had a turbulent history.
In 1460 after many years of English occupation, the castle was recaptured by the Scots, but at a price. In the process the Scots King James II was killed by an exploding cannon. After this the castle was demolished. The burgh gradually lost its importance and was eventually replaced by Kelso as the chief town of the area.
Kelso Abbey closed during the Reformation but the town next to it flourished. By the 18th century Kelso had become a busy market town, with many craftsmen and merchants, and weekly markets serving the needs of the area. Fires in 1684 and 1742 destroyed much of the town; the rebuilding which followed gave the town centre its Georgian character.
The Square is the largest market square in Scotland, with the Town House (Town Hall) its stunning centrepiece. Built in 1816 to replace the old Tolbooth, it was originally home to the local court and the Town Council, but is now the residence of the registrar and Visit Scotland.
Today Kelso continues to have a strong link to the farming community and is the home of the Border Union Show. It also thrives as a major tourist attraction with the Abbey, Georgian Square and Cobbled Streets.
Kelso Town Hall celebrates 200 Years
2016 marks a very special year in the history of Kelso as it was in March 1816, that the foundation stone for the magnificent Town Hall was laid. The Friends of Kelso Museum, along with other community based organisations in the town, have put together a series of events during the summer and autumn, including concerts, walks and exhibitions.
The next event on the calendar is the Farmers Market and Street Fair being held on Saturday 16th July from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Click here to view the full programme. Please come along to celebrate the 200th birthday of the Town Hall.
Kelso Farmers Market and Street Fair »
Kelso Connections has compiled this fascinating collection of storyboard autobiographies to share the contributions that people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.
We're From Kelso Storyboards
Founded in 1128, by David 1, Kelso Abbey was the largest and richest of all the Border Abbeys. The monks belonged to a reformed Benedictine Order. They spent a few years in Selkirk before moving to Kelso. Little now remains of its great church apart from the west tower.
A 'Virtual Museum' for Kelso has been made possible as a legacy of the Townscape Heritage initiative. The 'Virtual Museum' compensates for the fact that we no longer have a physical presence in the town. Here you will find images from the Museum collection which has been in storage for the past 18 years.